Mosquitos and summer go hand in hand, as the days are longer and activities can stretch from the early morning into dusk. The longer time spent outdoors, the more exposure we have to annoying dive-bomber mosquitos and other bugs that bite. But some mosquitos can pose a real danger to humans and pets, especially when they carry either the West Nile virus or the Zika virus — diseases like that can’t be prevented with a vaccine or medication. That’s why protection is key, if we want to enjoy the season as planned.
Prepare properly! Once the humidity hits, mosquitos follow, often spotted at sunrise or sunset, near ponds and swamps, and in wooded areas. Apply insect repellants containing DEET or 20 percent picaridin to exposed skin (DEET lasts longer). For extra protection, cover exposed skin by wearing hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. Avoid perfume; it may attract bugs to you. Even though a picnic blanket on the grass can be fun, eat at a table if you can (or bring portable, fold-up chairs or stools). Always keep food and drinks covered. If you do get bitten, don’t scratch the site. Instead, apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.
West Nile virus may cause sickness, especially in people over 50, and in those with compromised immune systems. Fever, head and body aches, diarrhea, joint pain, rash, and vomiting are common symptoms.
Zika virus symptoms include conjunctivitis (red, itchy eyes), fever, joint pain, and rash. Importantly, if you’re infected with Zika, it can also be sexually transmitted and cause serious birth defects, so use condoms or refrain from sex if you have the virus.
Check the Centers for Disease Control’s Travelers’ Health section online for up-to-date travel information on Zika. Most prevalent abroad, it’s been brought to the U.S. in a number of states across the country, with the highest numbers (as of January 1 to May 31, 2017) in California, New York State, South Florida, and some areas of Texas. If you can, avoid travel to any places hard-hit by Zika, as well as proximity to wetlands and wooded areas. Always use precaution and protection.
The West Nile virus and Zika virus are serious illnesses. If you’ve been bitten by a mosquito and experience any symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano